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Damage in Student Accommodation & Housing
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Damage in Student Accommodation & Housing

Written by Sam | April 7, 2018

Definition

“Physical harm that impairs the value, usefulness, or normal function of something”

For example, if you were to break a door handle, that’s damaged. If on the other hand, the door handle became loose over a period of time, that would be wear and tear. Honesty is the best policy between you and your letting agent and or landlord.

Any damage and the cost is likely to be charged to you through your deposit. If it is a genuine accident and the damage can be fixed relatively quickly and minimal effort, there might even be no charge but don’t hold out hope because they will need to cover out the call-out costs of the maintenance contractors. Student accommodation providers can’t charge you for wear and tear, that is not your fault and is deterioration over time.

Before you or your housemates move out the landlord/ letting agent will walk around the property completing an inspection form and ticking off the inventory and have a look to see if there is any damage that has been caused. It is wise for you to be at the last inspection, this way you can verify or contest any damage claims. After that, you will likely receive some sort of invoice detailing the costs and what they will take out of your deposit!

When you first move in, to prevent any arguments you can and should take pictures of the house, if you can, add the date and times to the photos. As an absolute bonus, you can get the landlord to sign as verification. Then when you move out, you have proof that you haven’t damaged anything. When you leave, you must return the house as you found it, if not, and parts have been damaged they usually take that out of your deposit and give you the rest back.

Splitting Deposits In Student Houses

How you split the payment up is difficult. Say your roommate breaks something in their room the money should come out of their deposit as it is their room. However who decides when it is broken in the living room? What about if you weren’t there and your deposit is being taken because of your friend’s actions. In the agreement, it should detail your deposit and what happens if there is any damage. If it doesn’t you must ask your letting agent or landlord and get them to clarify what happens to the deposits.

Wear and Tear in Student Housing & Accommodation

However, just to complicate this even further. We can add ‘wear and tear’. This is something that the landlord and letting agents CANNOT charge for. This is because it is general wear and tear, it is what happens when something is used all the time. For example, say the carpet in the hallway has a rut in the middle where everyone walks that is general wear and tear because there is no way that you should be expected to walk on both sides of the carpet. Another one would be, maybe if the washing machine stops working as it’s fairly old. You didn’t put anything in there that you shouldn’t have, then this should be classed as general wear and tear. You may be asked a few questions relating to the use of the machine, however, this will just help them determine what’s wrong with it. General wear and tear items CAN be:

  • Washing machines
  • Tumble dryers
  • Showers
  • Doors
  • Taps
  • Tables/chairs & sofas
  • Carpets
  • Walls

You must always report the damage to the house, if not then the landlord/letting agent can’t fix it. Normally they have a website or a number that you can ring, even in out of hours where you can report the damage.

If you need a repair, the agent has a set of timescales they must work to and it all depends as to whether the repair is an emergency, urgent or a standard repair.

The landlord & Letting Agent has a legal responsibility to:

  • Maintain the structure and exterior of the house. This includes, roofs, guttering, windows, drains and garden walls
  • Have all gas appliances serviced and checked every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Automatically provide a copy of the gas service record to tenants when they move in/or have one displayed in the property
  • Keep in working order the installations for the supply of gas, electricity, water and sanitation. This includes pipes to and from the house
  • repair the sinks, WC, hot water, space heaters and gas appliances
  • Repair and maintain any appliances that are in the property when you move in. This includes cooker, fridge, freezer, burglar alarm and fire detection systems. They are not responsible for any appliance that you take into the house, e.g. television or microwave
  • provide adequate bathroom and kitchen facilities
  • make good any damage to the decoration of the property caused by the repairs and clean up afterwards
  • Cover reasonable costs for alternative accommodation if you need to move out during repairs.

The landlord/agent cannot pass on responsibility for these legal obligations by putting clauses in your contract, for example, making you responsible for the maintenance of drains or gas fires where central heating has been installed.

What you should do:

  • Report all disrepair promptly. If further damage is caused because a repair was not reported at the time a problem occurred or was spotted (e.g. a leak from the roof that damages the ceiling and/or walls), the landlord/agent may charge the household for any excess damage
  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure that you and your guests do not damage the property
  • Undertake minor day to day maintenance, for example unblocking sinks.
  • Keep the property clean, including the cooker, fridge and freezer, toilet, bath/shower area
  • Protect the property during periods of absence. If you have a burglar alarm, make sure that you use it and that all doors/windows are secure when you leave the property
  • In the winter ensure that the heating is kept on a low heat to prevent the pipes from freezing
  • Keep the garden and bin areas clean and tidy. All rubbish should be carefully bagged and put in the rubbish bins provided. The local environmental health department has the power to fine residents for untidy garden/bin areas. If you have excess rubbish, contact your local council cleansing department, who may remove it free of charge, or you can take it to the local tip if you have a car!
  • Stick to the terms of your tenancy agreement.
  • Do not tamper with equipment in the house, particularly smoke detectors and fire doors. They have been fitted for your own safety.

Condensation has a huge debate around whether it is the house (structural) or lifestyle (you) which is creating the damp. The best way to not get into the whole debate is to stay clear by doing these simple steps below!

Helpful Tips For Students To Avoid Damage & Repairs

Condensation is caused when moisture meets a cold surface (such as a window) or a surface that gets little air (e.g. behind a wardrobe) and water droplets are formed. The water then seeps into windows and/or runs down the walls, which in turn can cause wallpaper/paint to peel and create mold patches. It is your responsibility to prevent it. This can be done by:

  • Closing the kitchen door when cooking and, if possible, keep a window open. Use extractor fans where provided
  • Keeping the door shut, when having a bath/shower. Open a window or use the extractor fan (if provided) and keep the bathroom door shut when you have finished
  • Drying clothes outside or in a room with a window open
  • Keeping heating at a low constant temperature, increasing the heat as and when required. This will eliminate the cold surfaces. This will not necessarily increase your bills because a room is more expensive to heat from cold
  • Moving large items away from walls, e.g. beds and wardrobes
  • Make sure you don’t overload washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers
  • Maintain all the machines with the right equipment
  • Clean toilets, taps & showers – Clean these regularly
  • Lost keys – Please don’t lose them or try and break-in

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